For businesses, having a strong web presence is vital. People now use smartphones, search engines and social media daily to find information for companies they are interested in doing business with or making purchases from.
But it’s not just your own website that is generating online information about your company or organization. Yelp, Google, Merchant Circle, Foursquare, Living Social and other aggregating websites are providing business listings complete with the ability to submit customer reviews. Facebook also offers an easy way for customers to find and comment about your business online.
Think no one pays attention to online reviews and social media comments about businesses? Think again. According to Nielsen Online, when making purchase decisions, internet users trust recommendations from people they know and opinions posted by unknown consumers online more than ads on TV, radio, in magazines and in other traditional media.
According to an American Marketing Association survey, 90 percent of consumers trust peer reviews, while 70 percent trust online reviews. People are paying attention, and even seeking out customer comments to make their own purchasing decisions. So, what can you do to keep your business’s reputation positive, even if someone posts a negative comment?
Here are 5 tips for maintaining a positive reputation online:
1. Actively monitor what’s being said about your business or organization online. Monitor your social media venues daily and Google your business’s name frequently, or set up a Google Alert to inform you if and when your business name is mentioned online. Take any customer comments on your site or another site seriously. Be sure to thank individuals for their positive comments.
2. If you receive a negative comment, whether it’s on your own site, another site or a social media venue such as Twitter or Facebook, don’t ignore it or delete it – address it. Especially on sites other than your own, it may not be possible to delete a negative comment, so any negative reviews become part of your company’s virtual record and will most likely appear in the search engines when someone enters your company’s name.
If it is an individual you can reply to that has posted a negative comment or customer complaint, quickly and politely respond to their comment online and offer assistance. When the issue has been resolved, post a final comment thanking them again for bringing their concern to light; note that it was your company’s pleasure to serve them, and ensure that they can contact your company or organization at any time for further assistance.
If it is an individual you are unable to reply to, or someone who has posted anonymously, post a polite follow-up offering assistance. For example, “Thank you for taking the time to offer a comment on our company’s services. Our goal is to provide complete customer satisfaction, so we would appreciate the opportunity to talk with you personally regarding the experience you described above. Please contact us at _________.” This makes your company appear attentive to customers and committed to customer service. If users do read the negative comment online regarding your business, they will also see your prompt and polite effort to resolve any issues.
3. Provide your own content. It’s within your power to make sure your company holds its own in the search engines with frequently updated blogs and website content and at least once-a-week social media posts. The more quality, positive content your company generates about its offerings, the more likely it is that this content will appear near the top of the search engines rather than information generated by another website.
4. Make sure customers can easily contact your company directly. Make sure your organization offers several customer support channels. One main reason that individuals post negative feedback on Facebook, Twitter or on a site other than your own is because they found it difficult to make contact with you via your website, phone or email. Offering multi-channel customer service ensures that if a customer does have a question, concern or complaint, they can easily make contact with your organization directly rather than feeling the need to comment on another site.
5. Always accentuate the positive. Be prompt, polite and proactive in every customer engagement experience. The majority of online comments about businesses are positive, but it never hurts to be prepared. As the saying goes, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. A negative review is your chance to turn a bad situation into a positive one through a prompt, polite response, and maintain your company’s positive image online.